December 14, 2016


Why the GOP Congress Will Stop Trump from Going Too Far : The coming resistance from Republican lawmakers who hate Trump, fear executive overreach--or both. (Daniel Stid, January 2017, Washington Monthly)

Consider the many ways in which the substantial ambitions of GOP legislators could bring them into conflict with the Trump administration. While Republicans may find some common ground on issues such as tax reform and opposition to Obamacare, Trump's priorities on other issues--such as trade, entitlements, infrastructure investment, and government spending in general--run counter to those espoused by many congressional Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Second, Trump and many of his advisers, like Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway, disrespect and dislike the GOP legislators and the institution they inhabit, seeing it as an independent center of political power that they do not yet control. Before Bannon came aboard Trump's campaign, he was determined to use his platform at Breitbart News to drive Ryan from the speaker's chair because of the latter's free-trading globalism and Washington insider status. It's no accident that Trump has become a devotee of congressional term limits. Trump executed a hostile takeover of the presidential wing of the GOP and now wants to bring the congressional wing to heel.

It's a safe bet that the loathing is mutual. While Ryan's eventual and lukewarm endorsement of Trump struck many critics as feckless, it is hard to imagine him taking any other course and retaining the speaker's chair. And time and again throughout the campaign, Ryan sharply criticized Trump's statements and actions as inconsistent with GOP and conservative principles--even after giving Trump his endorsement.

Ryan wasn't the only House Republican who was profoundly ambivalent about Trump. A cheat sheet by David Graham at the Atlantic found that at least twenty-five members of Ryan's majority--more than 10 percent--declared on the record that they would not vote for their party's standard-bearer. This is a highly unusual development in an age of intense party unity--and not a harbinger of a majority that will serve as a presidential rubber stamp.

Though less apt to withhold their votes, the true believers in the House Freedom Caucus are another potential thorn in Trump's side. Prominent members of this group have already challenged expectations that they will be passive passengers on the Trump train. "November 8th wasn't the election of a monarch," Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie observed. "It was the election of the head of a third of our government as envisioned by the Founding Fathers." For his part, Michigan Representative Justin Amash has been upbraiding the president-elect on Twitter for his threats to curtail civil liberties and intervene in free markets. When Trump boasted about his negotiations with Carrier, Amash tweeted, "Not the president(-elect)'s job. We live in a constitutional republic, not an autocracy. Business-specific meddling should not be normalized."

Over in the Senate, where the GOP holds a mere two-seat majority, and where individual legislators wield considerable power, there is even more reason to expect that Republican lawmakers will frustrate Trump. In a post-election day press conference, McConnell fired shots across the president-elect's bow, reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO and pointedly stating that term limits would not be on the Senate's agenda. "We have term limits now," the Kentuckian quipped to the assembled reporters. "They are called elections."

Other senators could also set Trump's wispy orange hair on fire. Ten Republicans in the next Senate--20 percent of the GOP majority--publicly affirmed that they would not vote for Trump, including stalwart Never Trump Senators Ben Sasse (Nebraska), Jeff Flake (Arizona), Lindsay Graham (South Carolina), and Mike Lee (Utah). Maine Senator Susan Collins disavowed Trump in August. After the release of the Access Hollywood tape in October, Alaskan Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan condemned Trump's actions and said they would not vote for him, as did John McCain, Colorado's Cory Gardner, and Rob Portman of Ohio. With the Republicans' narrow majority, a few defectors could thwart passage of a bill or a confirmation of a weak appointee.

Donald only ever owes; he is never owed.

Posted by at December 14, 2016 8:07 AM